You start with a server...
The first thing to remember about FirstClass® is that it's a client-server application. This means that the actual FirstClass® Server Application (FCS) and Network Store (FCNS) are located on a hosted server. Users interact via client applications, such as the dedicated FirstClass Client (FCC), HTTP browser, or a range of mobile devices such as Palm, Blackberry, and iPhone. No matter what the client device, all data apart from certain FirstClass® Client resources is stored on the server (as opposed to a system like Exchange, that stores files locally). This means that no matter where you are or how you log in, everything is still at your fingertips.
This also means that you need somewhere to put that server. There are many options, ranging from maintaining the server (and any additional hardware deemed necessary) at your own facility, to contracting the hosting out with a variety of service providers. Of course, you should always consider the issues involved with hosting your own server (disaster recovery, archiving, administration, etc.) when making that decision.
Stir in the service applications...
FirstClass® also interacts through a variety of service applications. This includes Internet Services (FCIS), Directory Services (FCDS), Voice Services (FCVS), Application Services (FCAS), Archiving Services and OTSW, depending upon how you're using FirstClass®. These service applications are separate, self-contained pieces of software that are installed either on the core server or on separate servers (or even "virtual" servers, if you want to get fancy), and they run various FirstClass® tasks. One of the many benefits of the service application model is that it provides you with a great deal of flexibility and customization options, even
if you are "sharing" the service with other customers.
FirstClass® itself stores information in a series of files (as opposed to data tables). Each file is stored in an indexed directory based upon a combination of attributes with no inherent ownership. What this means is that an email (or any other object) sent to or shared by any number of FirstClass® users has only one instance. Allocation is determined by a series of 'pointers' that tell the object who can access it, to what degree, and in what locations. So although larger implementations can take up a serious amount of disk space, the file structure allows for extremely detailed control over the FirstClass® environment, and it also provides a very slick and powerful interface for those service applications.
Add a number of users...
FirstClass® users come in two basic flavors: Regular and Remote. The difference between them is somewhat complicated, but suffice it to say that most of your users will be Regular Users -- basic licensed accounts. Your user base is further broken down by access permissions and available features, and for this we have user groups. Each user can belong to any number of groups, of course, but since everything in FirstClas®s depends upon access
and permissions, it is important to consider what you want your users to actually do before structuring your user base.
Your users, and the resources you provide to them, are the single most important aspect of your FirstClass® environment. Not only are they the people your system is designed to serve, they are also essential collaborators, building and growing the system with
their ideas and needs. The best way that you can assist them is to provide a system without too much top-down structure. Although it is important to design your system to meet the needs and fulfil the requirements of your organization, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to lock FirstClass® down so tightly that your users are unable to explore its potential; resentment and hostility towards the syetem can develop quickly if it's too hard to get work done.
And serve (serves 1 to 100,000)...
So in its most basic form, FirstClass® beavers away with a host of helper applications, serving up various features and types of content depending upon who asks for what and how. There is so much going on, in fact that administering the server takes a great deal of knowledge and experience, as every single component of FirstClass® affects every other component.